How Many People Come to The UK Each Year

Why Is Statistics Important?

Statistics provide the information to educate how things work. They’re used to conduct research, evaluate outcomes, develop critical thinking, and make informed decisions. Statistics can be used to inquire about almost any field of study to investigate why things happen, when they occur, and whether reoccurrence is predictable.

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford produces impartial analysis of migration in the UK. Their research helps us, policymakers, civil society and the media understand the implications of data and research about migration. The numbers answer important questions about how migration is changing, how policies affect migration and its impacts, and what are the social and economic effects of migration in the UK.


Two Parts

There is a lot to cover. For your convenience, I have subdivided this article into two parts. This is part 1. You can read part 2 HERE.


How the UK Immigration System Works

Those who travel to the UK, can cross the UK border in one of the following ways:

  1. returning residents (those with the right of abode in the UK)
  2. with entry clearance (visa given outside the UK, usually issued to visa nationals)
  3. with leave to enter (visa granted at the UK border, usually to non-visa nationals, travelling to the UK for less than 6 months for the purpose of just visiting this country)
  4. with leave to remain (visa issued in the UK)
  5. those who are seeking asylum and refugees through resettlement schemes
  6. those who do not have a right under the UK immigration law to enter the UK. The Home Office calls them ‘persons who evadite border control’.


129 Million Passenger Arrivals to the UK

In September 2023, according to the statistics published by the Home Office, there were approximately 129 million passenger arrivals in the UK (excluding the Common Travel Area). This is 35% more than in September 2022, when the UK Border system registered only 96 million arrivals to the UK.


How Many Visas Were Granted?

For the year ending September 2023, the UKVI granted 3,383,446 visas, which is 30% higher than the year ending September 2022.


Grants of Entry Clearance

What is Entry Clearance?

How Many People Come to The UK Each Year
How Many People Come to The UK Each Year

Entry clearance is a visa usually issued to the visa-nationals as they cannot travel to the UK without one. There is a straightforward way to check if you are a visa-national and need prior entry clearance to enter the UK. You need to check if your country of origin (NOT residence) is on this visa national list. If it is, then you’ll definitely need to apply before travelling to the UK.

However, if your country is not on this list but you would like to travel to the UK for a purpose other than that of a general visitor, you’ll also need to apply for entry clearance. For example, if you are from Canada (this country is not on a visa national list) and would like to visit the UK for 2 weeks just for sightseeing – you don’t need to apply for a visa to enter the UK. However, if you would like to work here, you’ll need to apply for entry clearance before travelling to the UK.

What are the Numbers?

In the year ending September 2023, the UKVI granted:

  • 1,914,778 UK visitor visas (+53%). However, this figure is still below the peak in the year ending September 2019 (2,370,239). The highest number of visas were granted to Indian Nationals (518,195), Chinese nationals (354,862) and Turkish nationals (116,092)
  • 585,774 work visas (+54%). 335,447 to the main applications and the rest to their dependents
  • 643,778 study visas (+8%), including sponsors and short-term students
  • 82,395 family visas (+117%)


Work Visas

We can subdivide work visas into the following categories and subcategories:

  1. Workers (total 229,817)
    1. Skilled Worker (66,322). The majority was granted to India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
    2. Health and Care Worker (143,990). India, Nigeria and Zimbabwe are the leading nationalities in this subcategory. Medical practitioners received 9,116 grants, and nurses received 23,810. 83,072 care workers and home carers entered the UK between September 2022 and September 2023. Finally, the UKVI granted 18,244 entry clearances to Senior care workers in the year ending September 2023.
    3. Intra-company Transfers (19,505)
  2. Temporary Workers (total: 72,895)
    1. Seasonal Workers (47,000). The top three nationalities are Krygyszan (7,233), Tajikistan (5,148) and Kazakhstan (4,430)
    2. Government Authorised Exchange
    3. Creative Worker
    4. Religious Worker
    5. Charity Worker
    6. International Agreement
    7. Global Business Mobility (1. Senior or Specialist Worker, 2. Graduate Trainee, 3. Secondment Worker; 4. Service Supplier; 5. UK Expansion Worker)
  3. Investor, business development and talent (total 5,116):
    1. Innovator Founder (only 520)
    2. Start-up (440)
    3. Global talent (4,046)
  4. Other Work Visas (total 27,649)
    1. Frontier Worker Permit
    2. High Potential Individual
    3. European Community Association Agreement (ECAA) businessperson (closed to new applicants)
    4. Overseas Domestic Worker (19,879)
    5. UK Ancestry
    6. and some other routes that are now closed.

Post Study Route

In July 2021, the UK government introduced the Graduate route. This route allows international students to remain in the UK for two years (if they are Bachelor’s Degree students) to look for work. It is an in-country visa and, therefore, allows the student to apply for a visa extension from the UK without returning overseas.

The UKVI granted 104,501 Graduate route extensions. This number excludes their dependents.

Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS)

How Many People Come to The UK Each Year
How Many People Come to The UK Each Year

All ‘Workers’ and ‘Temporary Workers’ (excluding the Youth Mobility Scheme) need to have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ (CoS) from their prospective employer as evidence of their job offer. However, their dependents do not need to apply for a CoS.

The UKVI granted over 285,679 Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS). 81% of these Certificates of Sponsorship were used for ‘Worker’ visa applications.

In case you are curious, ‘Human Health and Social Work Activities’ was the largest sector for CoS used in the year ending September 2023 for ‘Worker’ visas, which is over half (61%).

Student Visas

For the year ending September 2023, the UKVI granted 486,107 student visas. This number does not include their dependents.

However, now the statistics include all EEA nationals as of January 2021. They need a visa to study in the UK because of Brexit. Top nationalities are, again:

  • Indian nationals (133,237)
  • Chinese nationals (108,978)
  • Nigerian nationals (51,071)
  • Pakistani nationals (33,150)

Short-Term Students

It is important to note that the statistics do not reflect the migration of all short-term students, as not all of them require a visa to enter the UK.

For example, non-visa nationals (where their country of nationality is not on the visa national list can travel to the UK without applying for entry clearance (visa granted outside the UK before travelling to the UK).

Those who need a visa to come to the UK for short-term courses, up to 6 months, can apply for a Standard Visitor visa.

The Home Office granted 4,691  applications in the year ending September 2023.


Students’ Dependents

Students could bring partners and children to the UK. In the year ending in September 2023, the Home Office granted 152,980 for this category of applicants.


Continue reading part 2 HERE.

How Many People Come to The UK Each Year